Week 43: One more thing about Nickleby

Hello everyone!

This week I decided to take a break from reading Dickens to read a little bit more about Nicholas Nickleby and to prepare for my next adventure (but more on that later). When I am reading something like Dickens, what some would call “the Classics,” I like to read more about the text in general and I definitely will read an Introduction (if my edition has one) because I like to get a sense of the time period and of the author’s concerns when writing the novel.

This is one of the reasons I am reading Norrie Epstein’s The Friendly Dickens as I read the novels. She dedicates a short section to each novel so I like to read them after I am finished so as not to get any spoilers (although most major plot points of Dickens’s novels are known!) or to focus my reading. These are also the reasons why I read the Introduction to the text after reading the novel.

In his Introduction to the 2008 Penguin Edition of Nicholas Nickleby, which is the one I read, Mark Ford discusses Dickens’s criticism of “Yorkshire Schools,” compares the novel to 18th-century picaresque novels (which was really interesting), and addressed the issue of class. This last sort of theme or topic stood out to me as I was reading Nickleby (and, I could argue, it’s predominant of any Dickens work), but I didn’t pay as much attention to it as I had done in his previous novels.

Epstein also talks about this issue in her discussion of the novel and having both points of view really made me think back to what I read and was struck at how I just couldn’t see how relevant class difference was so important in the text. Like I said, maybe I’ve come to expect it so much of a Dickens novel that I just wasn’t paying so much attention!

For starters, Nicholas’s journey is solely based on his desire to return to his original social status, which he does achieve by the end of the novel when he is even able to purchase his childhood home. In the general sense, Nicholas is no different than say Pip from Great Expectations, but it does show you how much Dickens improved as an author that Pip’s journey is far more powerful because you cannot really see how it is going to end while I don’t think you are truly worried about Nicholas.

Furthermore, we have Mrs. Nickleby who is always looking back to what she owned and to her friends (she is just so silly sometimes I forget to take her seriously!) and, of course, poor Smike! His sickness is not really showing of poor conditions in London since he is not living as uncomfortably as another of Dickens’s children (like say Jo in Bleak House or Jenny Wren in Our Mutual Friend, for example) but it is actually the fact that he is not of a noble social status enough to being able to marry Kate Nickleby what kills him!

Once you begin analyzing, you can find many examples of class difference and the desire for upward mobility, which was a concern of many Dickensian characters. There are the Kenwigses and the Wittiterlys, of course, but also the Squeers. When you look closely at the way Fanny Squeers treats the Browdies, you can see how she believes herself to be of higher status than them, of anyone really.

What I found interesting was that Ralph Nickleby was uninterested in class. I mean, he dealt with people of high society, such as Lord Verisoph and Sir Mulberry Hawk, but he didn’t quite want to belong to it, he was just content with having money. It’s probably what makes his character so devious.

One final note on Nicholas Nickleby and I’ll move on:

I loved reading about how Dickens actually made a difference with his novel. He actually did travel with his illustrator to Yorkshire and made his research about Yorkshire schools (he was a reporter before becoming a novelist so I am sure that curiosity for finding the truth never went away) and he uncovered a lot of horrible things. After the publication of Nickleby, the number of Yorkshire schools dropped! People actually read his novels and cared. I find that to be so amazing and I do not know if there is something that happens like this today.

Thank you for coming with me on my journey through Nicholas Nickleby! I really hope you stick around for my next adventure in Dickens’s world.

May we meet again!

A.

Week 42: In which I try to review Nicholas Nickleby but I’m just sharing what I loved about it

And on day 109 I finished Nicholas Nickleby!

It still feels strange that I won’t be spending my afternoons with the Nickleby family. So far, this is the Dickens novel that has taken me the longest to read and while I have mixed feelings about it, I still quite enjoyed it.

Please be advised that I’m discussing major plot points of the novels so if you don’t want spoilers, stop reading! ❤️

Dickens’s writing truly makes anything better for me. His writing is just so beautiful and evocative. He is funny and hopeful and heavy handed with his political and social criticism when he needs to be and it never interrupts with the flow of the story. I truly love that about his writing. He is also the only writer I know who can write fairies and ogres into a very realistic story.

Many people have told me that they don’t enjoy how he describes everything in detail, but that’s probably one of my favorite aspects of his writing. His descriptions are part of his world-building techniques, and they are truly spot-on. He is writing his characters in a London he knows, but also in a London of his invention, and that is something I find fascinating.

That being said, Nickleby’s London functions like a theatre and, while I found this to be very creative, it was a bit annoying at times.

This is Dickens’s most theatrical novel (of the ones that I’ve read) by far. It doesn’t just have its main character join a theatre group and introduces a set of actors (bad actors at that) who perform everything they do, on and off stage, but it also has its own characters be very performative: the Kengwigses, the Wititterlys, the Lillyvicks, and, my personal favorite, Mrs. Nickleby. These are all incredibly performative characters who almost know they have an audience watching them. They not only perform for each other, but also for the Reader. It is quite a fascinating technique, but it can get tiring.

It really was like you could see Dickens manipulating things in the background. Reading Nickleby was the only time I felt Dickens’s authorial power so strongly. In other words, it was really hard not to pay attention to the guy behind the curtain, and that can ruin the magic of the performance a little bit.

You could also tell when he backed himself into corners and how he cleverly writes himself out of them. Towards the middle of the novel, you can tell he is making time and that can be quite tiring when reading as some installments are just the equivalent of watching people walk long distances on screen, just a tad boring.

The ending felt incredibly rushed too and I felt like it lost some of the vibrance from earlier installments. Here are some spoilers so you may want to stop reading if you haven’t read this novel before:

  • The Cheeryble brothers are way too nice, it’s unreal. I often find that Dickens’s villains have more personality  than the good ones and Arthur Gride is just a great example (he is mean, yes, but he can also be pitied. He wants to marry Madeline because he wants to recover what he lost, youth and beauty), but the Cheerybles have almost nothing going for them. They are just good. Boring. Dickens can do better (see Magwitch in Great Expectations).
  • Almost all the happy moments happen off-screen. The resolution is just told to us, the readers, but we don’t see it happen.
  • Did he plan for Smike to be Ralph’s son all along? I don’t think so. That was probably just an add on for surprise and it felt like it.
  • Some of the evil guys just went “poof!” – see Sir Mulberry Hawk. He was the scariest of the lot and he just disappeared from the story. Boring.
  • The poor kids from the Yorkshire school. I thought Nicholas would do something for them, but really, he just forgot about them.
  • Kate was such a powerful character in the middle of the novel and then she becomes a blank, an extension of Nicholas. And Madeline doesn’t even speak. She just does what everyone tells her to do. She was really just added in so Nicholas didn’t end up alone.

Alright, it seems like I’ve vented a lot.

It really is a good Dickens novel, it just wasn’t my favorite. I think it was missing some of the things that make reading Dickens so enjoyable, especially towards the end. It’s good to know, however, that he does get better at weaving the stories from his characters in latter books and much better at hiding behind the curtain and letting his characters do their thing.

Have you read Nicholas Nickleby? Do you agree with me or disagree? What did you think?

By all means, share your experience with me!

Thank you for reading and may we meet again!

A.

Week 41: In which everything connects

Day 105 of reading Nicholas Nickleby and very quickly approaching the end, at last!

 

I am finally hooked to the story and I think it happened when it became more Dickensian, which to me has a lot to do with one of my favorite tropes in Dickens’s novels: the many coincidental encounters the London of his novel.

Tim Linkinwater says it better than anyone ever could:

‘Why, I don’t believe now,’ added Tim, taking off his spectacles, and smiling as with gentle pride, ‘that there’s such a place in all the world for coincidences as London is!’

And you really cannot read a Dickens novel without accepting that highly coincidental encounters will happen!

I had a colleague while I was doing my Masters in Literature who hated this and called it lazy, but, honestly, I think it’s probably harder to make so many coincidences happen and then having them all tie up together in the end, but this is just a matter of opinion.

Now, I do not know if the London of Dickens’s time was such a place and it truly sounds magical how you can meet the right person at the right time (or, at least, just in the nick of time to save them from a terrible plot you just overheard about quite recently). I live in Mexico City, which is a huge place, and I am pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to find my loved ones without proper use of technology. Sometimes I can’t even find the place I am going to using Google Maps!

Oh well! Dickens’s London seems like a magical place for me and I love how people keep finding each other, which is why this latter part of the novel has been a joy to read.

Finally, we seem to have a full cast of characters (with the very late introduction of Arthur Gride and his witch-y housekeeper whom I love!) and they are all moving across the board to wherever they need to go in order to come to a resolution.

I’ve already mentioned about the villains gathering and shaping up their evil plans, but it seems like Dickens took a step back from having a “final showdown” just yet, all of which led to the introduction of Arthur Gride so I don’t have a problem with it yet.

I still have 100 pages to go and I am excited to see how it will all come together! The plan is to finish before the end of the month so, fingers crossed!

Thank you for reading and may we meet again!

A.

PS: A fun anecdote about this, which makes sense if you are also a Stephen King fan.

I am also reading the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, currently on Volume V – Wolves of the Calla where he mentions the quote cited above! While the main characters, Roland of Gilead and Eddie, Susannah, and Jake from New York, ponder about coincidentally meeting the right people at the right time while in New York, the coincidental meetings in Dickens’s novels are mentioned.

Susannah says. “I had a teacher in college who hated the way that always happened. He said Dickens’s stories were full of easy coincidences”

To which the main protagonist, our gunslinger, replies: “A teacher who didn’t know about ka or didn’t believe in it”

In this world, ka is a word for fate or destiny and they strongly believe that it rules all their actions. Anyways, Dickens would’ve approved.

About Week 40: In which truly funny events lead me to think about poor Smike

Day 99 of reading Nicholas Nickleby.

Ever since I learned the ways Dickens’s novels were published, I’ve always been interested in the art of serialization.

At first I thought that Dickens just focused on one novel at a time (silly me!) considering he was also involved in editing his own magazines (Household Words and All the Year ‘Round) and being involved in the theatre. Plus, you know, he had ten kids.

I was surprised to discover that he worked on Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist at the same time (finishing the first one as he began the second one) and that Oliver Twist was ending at the time that Nicholas Nickleby had started to become serialized. Thus it’s not surprising that these novels influenced each other.

But while I feel Dickens was trying a sombre or slightly dark tone in Nickleby, similar to the one used in Oliver Twist. I’ve just read a couple of really funny scenes in Pickwick Papers and, coincidentally, they all relate to matters of the hear.

While Mulberry Hawk was pursuing Kate in a very creepy and uncomfortable manner, Nicholas was being wooed by the ladies of the theatre group and that offered some comedic relief, but it wasn’t fully resolved since he had to depart so quickly in order to save his sister.

Now though, Nicholas has found the object of his affection (or rather she has found him) and has decided to pursue her (by sending Newman Noggs to find out who she is) to a very comedic end when it turns out he follows the wrong person. What is more, Mrs. Nickleby is being wooed by the madman next door, which is hilarious because we can totally argue she is a little bit mad herself. Well, not quite mad, just blind to everything that happens around her.

These very funny situations seem very Pickwickean (and truly, Pickwick Papers are just a series of comic events) and this reminiscence to PP has made me think a bit more about the character of Smike.

He seems very bland to me but I think he was thought out (or turned out to be) as a combination of Oliver Twist (the poor orphan who has been mistreated) and Sam Weller (the very loyal servant). As a Weller-type of character he is missing a lot of his comedy and lightheartedness, but this is understandable considering his past. However, he does have the Weller loyalty to Nickleby, who saved him from Dotheboys Hall.

He is a lot like a grown Oliver in that he seems oblivious to a lot of what happens around him (especially when him and Nicholas joined the theatre group) and we are just meant to pity him. His character is not yet fully form, like I said, very bland, but I can totally see Dickens’s attachment to these type of characters (the suffering orphan, or the suffering child in general). I do, however, feel like they have more personality in his later works (and, if you’ve read Bleak House then I am thinking about Jo).

I can see Smike’s future though, I’ve read other Dickens’s works, but I’m sure he has a very important part to play yet!

Thank you for reading!

May we meet again!

A.

About Week 39: In which I think about villains

Day 94 of reading Nicholas Nickleby.

Happy September, everyone!

This is probably the longest it has taken me to post but I had to nurse my teething child and it was also his birthday so, priorities. But I’m back!

Another month goes by and I am almost defeated by this novel. I swear, when I read Bleak House, which is probably much longer, it didn’t take me this much. I blame the villains.

The villains Dickens creates are often my favorite characters.

Some of them are incredibly theatrical in a “twirl-the-mustache”-way, like Rigaud in Little Dorrit who is fantastically portrayed by Andy Serkis in the BBC miniseries. These are really fun and, while almost cartoonish in their evilness, significant in their own narrative.

But most Dickensian “villains” are incredibly complex (Bradley Headstone in Our Mutual Friend is probably my favorite in the way he was portrayed but I still have to read all his works and compare). They do evil things, definitely, but they are more than just simply evil, maybe it’s their backstory or maybe it’s the way they are portrayed but something makes them stand out and become vibrant, sometimes even more than the main character.

Fagin and Sikes in Oliver Twist fit these categories for me. Sikes, while scarier than Fagin at times, was just plain evil in an almost cartoonish way (you know, covered in lime green mist, scars, and a smirk on his face. Basically just wearing a t-shirt that says “Hey! I’m the Evil One!). Fagin, on other hand, was loving to his “pupils” and people trusted him. There are even times when the narrative asks us to pity him and that truly is why he is so well, remembered.

Back to Nicholas Nickleby then. I am lacking that vibrancy from the villains involved. They have gathered and the machinations have been formed but I simply see them all as very plain. Let’s see…

First, we have Mr Squeers, the master of Dotheboys hall. He has returned to London and has been set on revenge. He is just a really horrible person. Should we pity him? Oh no! He deserves the worst and we know it.

Then there is Sir Mulberry Hawk, the man who molesta Kate. This guy is just gross, whatever happens to him is well-deserved.

Finally, there is Ralph Nickleby who brings them all together. His character feels underdeveloped to me. We know a lot about him but there’s something missing. I’m still not sure. I think Dickens was trying to achieve some kind of humanity out of him by making him care for Kate, but it’s not quite there. He seems like a Scrooge, truly, but we haven’t seen the transformation yet and I’m not sure if we’ll get it but I still have a long ways to go.

Well, the villains have gathered and they’re up to no good. Let’s see what trouble Nicholas gets to next!

Thank you for reading and may we meet again!

A.

Week 38: In which I wonder what could make things better

Day 84 of reading Nicholas Nickleby.

Allow me to take this post to express my personal opinion in random thoughts on this novel.

My favorite things about Dickens’s novels are the political and social criticism, the characters, and the really great turns in the plot (you know, when it all makes sense in the end and everyone seems to be connected by the mysterious work of the Author). So far, I’m in love with the characters but I am missing the social and political criticism.

With characters like Sir Mulberry Hawk and Mr Squeers, Dickens is definitely showing some criticism but I feel like the part with Mr Squeers was so short it was lacking the richness in criticism that you see in his later works. Of course, it is clear that he grew as a writer, and that may be why I feel like this book is lacking something.

I’ve been stuck for a while watching the characters move about and settle around London and in the countryside, but it feels like there’s not a lot happening and I feel it is taking me forever to read the novel. I can feel the buildup for something, Mr Squeers is back with a vengeance it seems, and that keeps me reading but I also feel the book is very mundane.

There’s something very appealing to it too. It’s almost like a modern television show (which makes sense considering the novel was serialized) but it’s a television show that could go for a very long time with the rise and fall of events (we have one little drama and it’s quickly solved in the next installment, which also hints to the next possible drama, almost like a medical drama or one of those police shows).

Or maybe it’s that there are so many things happening and it’s hard to keep up with all of them. I’ve never had this trouble before with his works but maybe this is different.

We’ll see! I’m definitely determined to finish this book by the end of next month and find out what happens to the Nickleby family.

May we meet again and thank you for reading my senseless rambles!

A.

About Week 37: In which I reflect on how time passes for Nicholas.

Day 78 of reading Nicholas Nickleby.

I feel like my reading has significantly slowed down, which is ironic considering how fast Nicholas moves throughout the narrative.

Nicholas has just returned to London, a city that Dickens describes with vibrancy and motion. He has been summoned by Newman Noggs to help his sister but he hasn’t been told what is wrong with his sister so Dickens describes his state of mind as restless and spastic in a way I find amazing.

I’ve been looking at the last chapters I read (of Nicholas’s return to London – the last two chapters of the 10th installment) from a writer’s perspective and I’m so fascinated at Dickens’s technique, which seems incredibly simple when you think about it and maybe that’s why it’s the first time I’ve ever come across something like this.

Dickens needs to show how distressed Nicholas is so what does he do? He uses time.

After Nicholas arrives to London, he cannot find anyone to tell him about his sister; Noggs and Miss LaCrevey alongside Mrs Nickleby are all gone in hopes that he won’t do anything rash (little do they know) and Nicholas is besides himself. What does he do? To pass the time he begins walking around London and ends up at a hotel bar where he meets Sir Mulberry Hawk (coincidence is a popular character in Dickens’s novels) who reveals everything about his sister.

Of course, he now does something rash of which we are still not sure about the consequences and he must run away once again.

It is imperative that Nicholas runs way since he doesn’t know the extent of what he has done. Like with the master of Dotheboys Hall, he has resorted to violence and has left before assessing all the damage and thus he must escape and now take his whole family with him.

So Dickens becomes very specific about time. We don’t see the passage of time escaping Nicholas’s grasp, but we actually see how long it takes for him to escape. He states that “It wanted a quarter to eight when [Nicholas and Smike] reached Cadogan Place” (402) and “it was barely half past nine when [Nicholas] reached the place of meeting” (405). In that short span of time Nicholas has removed Kate from her employment, picked his mother up and collected all her possessions, and gotten ready to go, first meeting Noggs in order to leave a letter for his uncle.

It takes Noggs “not three minutes’ walk” (405) to deliver the letter to Ralph Nickleby, which the latter reads twice, giving the family enough time to escape.

This last chapter of the 10th installment uses the word time almost in every paragraph! I need to take the time to count them, it truly is fascinating. Why? Because the specificity of time can make someone nervous like constantly looking at our watches when we are late or waiting for someone. It does not change the passage of time, but it does alter our perception of it and that is the concept with which Dickens plays along in this installment.

What do you think? Have you read something like this before? Did you read this scene and did it have the same effect on you as it did me?

I’m so happy I now have more time to read so I can discover what fate is waiting for the Nicklebys!

May we meet again!

A.

Week 36: In which I think about family in fiction

Day 71 of reading Nicholas Nickleby.

 

Another week goes by!

These past two weeks have been a bit crazy. We’ve visited family and now family is visiting us so maybe that is the reason for my overall thoughts behind this post.

Currently, not much is happening in the story, but you can tell we are preparing for something big. Nicholas is on his way to London upon Noggs’s request in order to save his sister and we know there will be a confrontation with his uncle. This sort of lull in the narrative made it a challenge to think of what to write about.

Curiously, I begun to think about the interest we have in the stories of families. The first works by Dickens (mostly Sketches by Boz and The Pickwick Papers) were all about London, traveling and debauchery as well as the different parts of the city, while his later works revolve more around family. It is not only an individual’s journey, but it is his affiliations and the connections he or she makes. Nicholas Nickleby, for example, is fully titled The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby but it is truly about the life and adventures of the Nickleby family, which include crazy and abstenminded Mrs. Nickleby, the lovely Kate who is accussed of being very similar to her brother, Nicholas, of course, and the evil uncle Ralph.

What is more, I think Dickens’s novels grow more and more concerned with family matters. We know that he loves writing about orphans and those displaced from their families but they often find an unlikely family (like Nicholas joining the theatre group) so he is always concerned about that sense of belonging.

In regards to families, most of the times they are dysfunctional. Of course, we can say we need this in order to write an interesting plot, but it is interesting in Dickens’s case because of his own personal history. On the one hand, he was an excellent father and he loved his children. He had 10 children (only 9 of them survived childhood) and was known to be very doting on them and to always worry about their futures. Coincidentaly, his family was just beginning to grow as he was writing Nicholas Nickleby so maybe that explains his interest in pursuing Kate’s story (he did have a daughter named Kate who is known as his favorite).

Being a parent definitely changes you, I am speaking from my own experience now, so I am feeling that in Dickens’s works at the moment and thinking to the ones I’ve already read such as Little Dorrit (where Amy, following a very similar arc to Dickens’s childhood) must provide for her family and be the sanest of the group) and Great Expectations (where Pip is ashamed of his family and his ancestry, which he comes to regret later).

I’ve just been wandering about what interests us about these family-centered stories. Think of the Star Wars franchise too, for example, it has spawn so many narratives and stories and fictional worlds but it all started as a simple family story. I wonder if we are so attracted to them because, quite simply, we all have our families and we all have a little dysfuction in our family (whether that be our close family or some distant relatives, there is always a story to tell).

I’m very curious to see where this is going. Oliver Twist found his family and his home but, before learning about his ancestry, he was united to his family by truly curious circumstances.

Let’s see where Nicholas’s adventures take us.

May we meet again!

A.

About Week 35: In which I discuss Nicholas’s theatrical skills

Day 66 of reading Nicholas Nickleby. 

 

Hello, everyone!

We’ve just returned from a little family vacation which prevented me from writing my post although I gave some thought to what I wanted to write about.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking (raving mostly) about the development of Kate Nickleby’s character and I am sure I am not done talking about her, but I think it is time we return to Nicholas’s journey.

Because I’ve previously read Old Curiosity Shop, I can definitely see how both of these works communicate with each other. I can see a lot of Nicholas’s journey in Little Nell’s, especially when it comes to thetricality.

If you need to know anything about Dickens is that he loved the theatre. If you have read any of his works, this will come as no surprise. It’s not just theatre plays, references to countless plays (a lot of Shakespeare, which is the easiest to recognize), and even having the characters join a theatre group (as Nicholas does), but it is also in the theatricality of certain characters and the setting of the scenes he composes.

Truly, theatre inspired his works and his own life. Dickens actually wanted to be an actor and he was known as an excellent performer. He acted in a couple of plays, some of which he wrote and directed himself (most famously No Thoroughfare with Wilkie Collins) but he was most know for his very theatrical readings. He didn’t just read from his books but he actually acted them out and put out a performance. It’s probably one of the reasons he died so young, he exhausted himself with so much energy on stage.

Anyway, it is no surprise then, knowing this about Dickens, to see that Nicholas’s journey takes him to join a small theatre group where he thrives as a writer and a performer. I loved Dickens’s description of the actors and the way he talks about showmanship (with the actors discussing how to make things far more interesting to draw an audience).

It’s actually not that eventful, it is a very happy time in Nicholas’s life and that is perhaps why it is not as memorable as his time in Dotheboys Hall.

The blissful time, however, is coming to an end and it seems like Nicholas is ready to give his final performance.

Speaking of performance… the presence of a theatre group also brings this word to mind and makes you think about performance in regards of the rest of the characters in the novel. There are good performers (and by this I mean good people that just perform on stage), such as are the members of Nicholas’s theatre group; there are bad performers, like Sir Mulberry Halk and Ralph Nickleby who decieve those around them by any means; and there are those unknown performers, and here I am thinking of Newman Noggs. This last one is such a fascinating character. He puts on plenty of performances but we are still not sure of the overall role he portrays in the story. I suspect we will find out toward the end of the novel and it will be a big revel.

Thus we must keep reading.

May we meet again!

A.

Week 34: In which I rave about Kate Nickleby

Day 56 of reading Nicholas Nickleby.

 

Please note! I’ve been trying to keep my posts free of spoilers or to include just minor ones – I definitely do not discuss major aspects of the plot openly – thus I am warning you I am about to now! So, if you do not like to have any kind of spoilers, STOP READING! 

If there ever comes a time when someone tells you that Charles Dickens never wrote a great — or as they say, a “strong” — female character, you must to them, look them in the eye and say “Catherine Nickleby” and then just walk away. Trust me.

Well, the last 100 pages literally flew by as I couldn’t stop turning them and it is all thanks to Kate Nickleby.

I’ve been writing about her far more often because she has been stealing the show for me and now I am incredibly surprised after reading her outburst and the way she defends herself. It is magnificent.

It is also something I am not accustomed to coming across in Victorian literature, except perhaps in the works of the Brontës – like in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights – and in them women are treated as if they were wild and unruly just because they express their concerns and their desires. Kate is treated much differently.

Her uncle, Ralph, is supposed to be taking care of her and her mother, but he takes advantage of her good looks and invites her to his house so a young lord can be entertained and continue to make business with him. This is terrible of her uncle, of course, and Kate lets him know. But first, she defends herself from Sir Mulberry Hawk who is a complete predator (as his name implies). His molestation of Kate is completely awful, uncomfortable, and definitely could be triggering to some readers. He pursues her and makes people think that he is her friend when we know he is definitely after hurting her. He may not be physically abusive (yet) but he is definitely and emotional abuser and Dickens does go into the perplexity and the damaging consequences of such a relationship, which I think is something unprecedented (or course I do not have the research to back this up, but I would love to know if I am right or wrong – so if you do know, please share it with me!).

But what was most fascinating to me, and a very feminist thing to do if you asked me, is when Kate becomes outraged (and rightly so) toward her employer Mrs. Wititterly after she tells Kate that she is inviting the attentions of Sir Mulberry Hawk and his friend Lord Frederick, which is very unbecoming. As we know now, blaming the victim is an awful thing to do and Kate does stand up for this:

‘Is it possible!’ cried Kate, ‘that any one of my own sex can have sat by, and not have seen the misery these men have caused me! … , and that the furtherance of their designs upon a friendless, helpless girl, who, without this humiliating confession might have hoped to receive from one so much her senior something like womanly aid and sympathy? I do not — I cannot believe it!’ (Dickens 353)

I cannot believe it either but it is something even relevant today, when we have just experience the uprise of the MeToo Movement, for example, that we see a lot of victim blaming and women standing against other women neglecting to even give their support as a form of “womanly aid.” It truly is hard to believe and it does hit a very vibrant note. It made me truly fall in love with Kate as a character. This is definitely something very different from what I’ve read in Dickens’s works, where most of the female protagonists are just innocent and good and never show much character.

Kate has layers. She is not only handsome and good and virtuous, bearing the shame of being pursued by these libertines in order to save her mother, but she is also sassy and shows that she wouldn’t stand for women not supporting each other, and that makes her very vibrant.

Finally, she confronts her uncle Ralph with the truth of his actions and tells him that she will keep her engagement, but once the contract is expired, she would much rather work with most hardship and support her mother in such a way than see him and his fellow felons again.

She is fantastic.

I really hope her character continues to blossom as the story progresses because I cannot wait to see what will become of her.

I also cannot wait to see if Divine Intervention will take care of Sir Mulberry Hawk. I am looking forward to a very Dickensian ending for him, maybe a house will fall on him or he will spontaneously combust… We shall see. Whatever it is, however, will definitely be deserved.

May we meet again!

A.